Plenty of parents worry about their kids’ online activities and their presence on social networks. Last week, the first lady even weighed in on the topic, saying that her daughters, ages 9 and 12, shouldn’t be on Facebook. But what’s a parent to do with their Internet-savvy tween who wants to stay connected with friends?
A new startup claims to have the answer in the form of a safe and closely-monitored social network that abides by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The network, called Everloop, launched yesterday and has already roped in a partnership with Internet safety education program i-Safe to bring it to 56,000 schools.
Everloop calls itself a “social looping platform” that works by allowing creating a “privacy loop” around kids’ connections. Inside the loop, kids can participate in collaborative learning and school projects, connect with friends by posting pictures and sharing comments and personalize and decorate their profile.
While Everloop’s homepage says that there are “no grownups allowed,” this isn’t exactly true. In order to join the site, a child needs a parent to register, and registration even requires a credit card number for security. Parents can then set up and control how much of their child’s activity they can see when they log in to their own account. For example, a parent can prohibit friend suggestions or instant messaging, or keep all options enabled.
But regardless of a child’s specific parental controls, whenever he or she makes a new “connection,” parents are always notified. Think of it as virtual approval for a playdate. “At Everloop, we’re recognizing that kids want to be online, and our goal is to get kids’ online time focused on connecting with a purpose,” Everloop’s website’s parents page says.
Even though Everloop certainly has children’s best interests at heart–it monitors the site 24/7 for inappropriate behavior–no one can say for sure if a social network so squeaky clean and parent-approved will be a hit with its actual audience, the tweens. After all, growing up means always struggling with what it means to be cool. But if brands like the Disney Channel are any indication, it’s sometimes possible to strike the delicate balance between being age-appropriate and being popular with the kids.
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